Dorothy Gould, a former Hadassah Beverly Hills chapter president and dedicated volunteer, died on Feb. 18. She was 89.
In 1989, Mollie Pier co-founded Project Chicken Soup (PCS), a nonprofit organization that makes and delivers free kosher food to Angelenos living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses. Today, at 92, she still volunteers, spending eight hours a month in the kitchen and calling recipients when their meals are ready.
There’s a certain bittersweetness to the festival of Sukkot. On the one hand, it’s z’man simchateinu, the season of our rejoicing: In ancient Israel, it marked the end of the harvest season, the time when the storehouses were full of sustenance for the coming agricultural year, the time of thanksgiving. We celebrate that today with wonderful meals for friends and family in our own sukkahs — a time of warmth, conviviality, plenty.
“Ask Israelis who have never seen a kibbutz before in their lives and who know nothing about the movement,” remarks Aya Sagi, director of the Volunteer Department at the Kibbutz Movement Program Center. “They at least know about the volunteers and are nostalgic.”
This Memorial Day, World War II Veteran Bea Abrams Cohen will be attending ceremonies at Los Angeles National Cemetery, paying tribute to all the men and women who have died fighting while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
One hundred volunteers from the UJA-Federation of New York broke the Guinness World Record for most sandwiches made for the needy in one hour.
There was a moment while preparing for her bat mitzvah when Rebecca Hutman feared the occasion would not live up to its importance. She wasn’t settled at a shul, and the experience was feeling kind of rote.
Izzie Levinson, 16, grew up in a family that is devoted to community service: Her father, David Levinson, is the founder of Big Sunday, an extensive regional volunteer program that grew out of a Mitzvah Day project.
Most young Jews do some kind of volunteer service, but few do it through Jewish agencies or connect it to Jewish values.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is asking community members to give time and elbow grease in addition to what’s in their pockets.
A volunteer at a private Holocaust archives in Texas was arrested for stealing documents and selling them online. Mansal Denton, 20, was a volunteer for a year-and-a-half at the Mazal Holocaust Library in San Antonio of the largest privately held Holocaust archives in the world, the Houston Chronicle reported. Retired Mexico City businessman Harry Mazal, 73, owns the archives. He reportedly spent $1 million collecting the documents.
One thing Rahm Emanuel is not, all agree, is the president-elect's conciliatory signal to the Jewish community after a campaign fraught with worries that Obama would tip toward even-handedness in dealing with the Middle East
Watching the children cry, clinging to us and begging us not to leave, I realized the power of selfless giving, an experience I had not discovered before this volunteer opportunity.
The notes are short, direct and never signed. They come from all over Los Angeles, from the South Los Angeles tenements to the San Fernando Valley suburbs. Their authors differ in age, ethnicity and religion, but have at least one thing in common: They all live with HIV/AIDS.
Their gratitude is directed at Project Chicken Soup, an L.A.-based nonprofit whose volunteers gather twice a month to cook nutritious, kosher meals and deliver them, free of charge, to the doors of clients across the city.
I signed up for Sar-El, an international program affiliated with the U.S.-based group, Volunteers for Israel, through which participants from all over the world travel to Israel to help out the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for up to three weeks.
Club Kung Fu is a martial arts program for Jewish special-needs children ages 9-15 that is designed to improve self-discipline, self-esteem and physical fitness. Right now, about eight boys meet weekly, but the program is expanding, thanks to a Cutting Edge grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles.
What would you do if you had 10 minutes to get out of your home, not knowing whether it will still be there tomorrow? What would you take? What would you leave? What is truly indispensable? These are the questions that too many of my fellow San Diegans have faced in the last few days as fires ravage homes all over San Diego County. Members of our shul, families from our day school, my husband's colleagues -- many have been displaced, forced to grab their loved ones, pets and the few things they can't bear to live without.
Brian had just finished lunch when he popped the question: "Do we get dinner too?" He was almost holding his breath. I smiled, nodded and watched his eyes widen in elated disbelief. Lunch and dinner! I felt both shocked and sheltered by his question. I had never met anyone who couldn't afford food before.
When I first arrived at the homeless shelter, I was scared. I didn't know what to expect, and I had to admit to myself that I had never really been out of my element. But I was open to the new experience -- and completely unaware of how the day would turn out.
This is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's dream: On one weekend a year -- known as Big Sunday -- 50,000 volunteers of all colors and creeds from neighborhoods throughout the region, all donning T- shirts preprinted with the Big Sunday logo, will fan out throughout Los Angeles and as far as Ventura, Anaheim and even Fontana to paint murals on classroom walls, plant trees, refurbish recreation rooms, clean homeless shelters, give blood, teach literacy, make cards for the sick and engage in hundreds of other do-good projects.
Realizing tikkun olam as a central pillar of Jewish practice, synagogues throughout the country require children to perform service projects before becoming b'nai mitzvah, sensitizing them to their growing responsibilities toward others as they approach adulthood. In many cases, these projects have been the inspiration for ongoing philanthropic endeavors.
When he was sent by his high-tech company to America in 1989, it was only natural that he would begin to search for more volunteer opportunities. An experienced pilot, Uziel, 56, began working for various medical aid organizations, flying needy sick people, as well as medical equipment and doctors around the country.
Rebecca Levinson grew up always doing things for the community.
"This is what you do," the 17-year-old junior at North Hollywood's Oakwood School, said matter of factly.
"Eve is the soul of the Food Pantry. She just knows that people cannot be hungry and we need to do whatever is necessary," said Joy Grau, a member of St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church in Studio City and a 15-year volunteer.
Social Justice seems to be the central theme that pervades just about any Jewish periodical. Open any issue of The Jewish Journal, for instance, and you will see all sorts of articles and editorials related to tikkun olam, acts of charity and kindness that help to repair or perfect the world.
Erika Levy and Alie Kussin-Shoptaw, seniors at New Community Jewish High School in West Hills, easily spotted in their bright orange volunteer vests, stood by the escalators at the Los Angeles Convention Center, greeting arriving United Jewish Communities General Assembly (GA) attendees and directing them to meeting rooms, halls and hospitality suites.
Starving Students, the nation's leading local mover, volunteered its movers and trucks for the SOVA Food Pantry's High Holiday Food Drive. Six Starving Students movers and two trucks helped pick up and deliver donated groceries to the SOVA warehouse where they would be distributed to families in need. The movers traveled throughout Los Angeles County and the San Fernando Valley and loaded more than 29 pallets of groceries into their trucks collected from synagogues.
Who will provide spiritual care for the needy?
Altman got down and dirty in the trenches, volunteering at a different place each day of his trip, which was coordinated by Dani Neuman, executive director of the Haifa Foundation.
They say that Israel is a place where a man might push you over on the bus to get to his seat and break your leg, but he will drive you to the emergency room and stay up with you all night to make sure you are all right -- better than all right, actually.
One day last year Rabbi Levi Meier, the Jewish chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, was summoned to the room of an elderly Russian man in the ICU who had cancer.
He was in poor spirits, so Meier decided to bring in the Torah from the chaplaincy ark. The patient's eyes lit up at the sight of the Torah that Meier, and volunteer Sandy Gordon, brought into a room.
As of now, the 3-year-old Darfur genocide is no longer unknown, but its horrors continue. Currently spreading from the Sudan to neighboring Chad, it has claimed 400,000 civilian dead and 4 million refugees, accompanied by mass rapes of women and starvation among children.
Driving through the deserted streets of New Orleans, we peered through the windows of our charter bus and watched as we drove past miles of destroyed homes. As we approached our destination, Waveland, Miss., the houses became increasingly tattered and decayed; on some lots, only kitchen floors remained. As we approached the shore and our worksite came into view, the entire bus was silenced by the broad stretches of land where only the scattered debris of homes remained.
At Temple Beth Israel, the planting project, which is being done in phases with funding and physical assistance from a Jewish environmental group, has transformed congregants' preconceived notions of drab native plants.
In addition to Hillel, other Jewish groups were active in Mississippi relief work. Shortly after Katrina struck, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement dispatched a group of emissaries to Biloxi to assist with emergency search-and-rescue efforts.
Saul Kroll is a firm believer in yetzer hatov, and the 87-year-old Westside resident translates it into practice six days a week as an emergency room volunteer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Joyce Rabinowitz, 76, is a volunteer Braille transcriber. She takes the printed word and, using a special computer program called Braille 2000, transforms it letter by letter into a prescribed set of dots that she saves to disk and gives to the Braille Institute. Each disk, with the help of an embossing machine, is used to produce a book written in raised dot text that a blind person can read with his or her fingers.
For the last eight years, Chadorchi, a Beverly Hills resident in her 20s, has become a rare jewel in the Persian Jewish community, quietly mobilizing a small army of friends, family members and local students to respond to the plight of the homeless in Los Angeles.
There are so many issues and problems in the world. How does one know what to focus on? Why do we, in the United States, need to worry about this faraway region of Africa, which is just part of a larger continent of peoples who also need our money and support?
This year, traditional Christmas Day volunteering is being spread out across December. The shul's ATID young adult leadership group's annual Dec. 25 Mitzvah Day is being merged with templewide volunteering on Dec. 18, the formal start of Sinai's yearlong centennial anniversary.
We volunteered with the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), a nonprofit organization devoted to ending poverty by furthering sustainable development and promoting international human rights.
SOVA's clients include the elderly, low-wage earners, the recently or long-time unemployed, and those suffering from serious illness or coping with physical or mental disabilities. SOVA provides them and their family members with a monthly allotment of healthy foods -- including fruits, vegetables and high protein items -- that last about four days, with more available for those who are homeless or in crisis.
The very word Siberia evokes a cold, distant place -- it's so, well, Soviet. But Siberia just got a little warmer and a little more Jewish because of San Fernando Valley resident Elaine Berke, who arranged for the b'nai mitzvah of 61 Siberian Jews ranging in age from 12 to 26.
Yael Friedman, a 53-year-old single mother, lives in the Israeli village of Arad with her 10 children. But she's not a typical single mother by any measure. For one thing, she gave birth to none of those children. Friedman works as a professional mother in a community that matches neglected and abused children -- 10 at a time -- with a women who is willing to assume the role of mother. This mother-by-choice also has to agree to stay single, to avoid any entanglement that would distract or detract from her task.
Imagine this situation: You've arrived at LAX after hours of sitting in an airplane from Italy. You've waited in line to get through customs, lugged your suitcases from the baggage claim and you finally emerge to locate your relatives. But they're nowhere to be found, and you don't speak English. What do you do?
I woke up Christmas Day morning with no tree, toys or eggnog, and I understood how Jewish children could feel left out on Christmas mornings as non-Jewish neighbor kids ride new bikes and try out other presents. Like Jewish kids, I had no gifts that morning.
The goal of the Arachim program is to help teens discover the opportunities that exist in their neighborhoods and communities, where their contributions make a significant difference in the lives of other people. The unique project is being observed by numerous synagogues and may serve as a model for communities trying to develop similar programs.
With their hands all but frozen, lips blue and feet soaking, nearly 50 South Bay teens and a large handful of adult volunteers braved the storm on Sunday, Dec. 5, to devote their afternoon to testing, cleaning and repairing bicycles.
When Lori Marx-Rubiner underwent a bilateral mastectomy two years ago, she lost the use of her arms for a few weeks. She couldn't brush her teeth, let alone tackle cooking dinner or driving her son to school.
Howard Parmet, community outreach consultant for the American Red Cross (ARC) of Greater Los Angeles, wants to build bridges to a Jewish community that has largely shunned the organization because of a belief that it is anti-Israeli at best and anti-Semitic at worst. Parmet wants to rehabilitate the organization's image, dispel misperceptions and recruit legions of local Jewish volunteers.
It's not the birth of the prehominid that scientists have named "Toumai" that marks the beginning of our moral evolution, but rather the birth of Adam and Eve.
Overlooking bruised thumbs, sore muscles and sunburns, by week's end the construction crew will bubble excitedly over their measurable progress that began with a bare foundation, said Thayne Smith, construction director for Orange County's Habitat for Humanity.
After midnight one Sunday last December, Motty Stock found his wife, Freda, unconscious on the bedroom floor. He picked up two phones and simultaneously called 911 and Hatzolah, an all-volunteer emergency first-response service.